FluGen reels in $12M to fund PhI of its universal flu jab

A day after two high-profile organizations announced successful animal results for their own universal flu vaccine, Madison, WI-based FluGen announced a $12 million Series A round to fund the development of its candidate in the race.

The money will go toward the first human trial of Redee Flu, a single replication live influenza vaccine that doesn't produce new virus, but can infect cells and express influenza RNA and proteins, the company said in its statement. In animal trials, the candidate showed to be safe, induced "potent" immune responses and protected against mismatched influenza strains.

With the announcement, FluGen said it's adding Dan Stinchcomb--former Inviragen CEO--as its executive chairman and C. Boyd Clarke--former Aviron CEO--as a director. Founded in 2005, the company is seeking with its universal flu vaccine technology to provide better flu protection for the elderly and better protection against drifted strains--which mutate after vaccines against specific flu strains are distributed, causing low efficacy and sometimes epidemics.

Participating in the round were Venture Investors, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the State of Wisconsin Alumni Board and other new and existing investors.

Contrary to traditional flu vaccines that target certain strains and must be changed annually, a universal flu vaccine has been called the "holy grail" of the field, so it's no surprise that FluGen isn't alone in the race to develop such a product. Also working in the race are Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) in partnership with The Scripps Research Institute, BiondVax ($BVXV) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Earlier this month, BiondVax said its candidate, administered in a Phase II trial three years ago, provided patients with increased immunogenicity against influenza strains that didn't exist at the time of the study. And last month, NIAID scientists touted their own universal vaccine candidate, which protected 94% of mice from varying lethal doses of influenza A strain infections.

And, just this week, J&J's Janssen unit said its candidate fully protected mice in a lethal challenge and reduced fever in monkeys as part of a sublethal challenge.

- here's the release